Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s daughter had claimed her father had sufficient funds to pay for her 60 percent stake in a hotel management firm, and had sought and obtained a decision-making role as the company’s director after a “deposit” of more than RM8 million for her planned takeover was paid, the High Court heard today.
Businessman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Manaf, 74, said this while testifying as the 83rd prosecution witness in Zahid’s trial.
In this trial, Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime minister and currently the Umno president ― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.
Today, Abdul Rashid spoke of how he had initially sought to sell off his 60 percent stake in hotel management firm Ri-Yaz Asset Sdn Bhd, as the company was facing difficulties in terms of its repayment for a US$24.8 million Exim Bank loan for the purchase of a hotel in Bali, Indonesia and as that hotel’s revenue was insufficient to cover loan repayments.
Abdul Rashid said the sale of his shares in Ri-Yaz was one of two possible solutions that he had agreed on with Ri-Yaz co-director Datuk Mohammad Shaheen Shah Mohd Sidek, noting that the other option was to find a new buyer for the Bali hotel.
The solution that would be chosen would be the one that could be achieved first, Abdul Rashid said.
Abdul Rashid said Shaheen had in 2015 notified him of Zahid’s daughter Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid’s interest to take over Ri-Yaz and buy over Abdul Rashid’s majority stake in the company.
“However, Datuk Nurulhidayah informed Datuk Shaheen that we have to meet with his father first to discuss about this matter as Datuk Nurulhidayah notified that she did not have that much money to buy my share in Ri-Yaz and only her father has that much money,” Abdul Rashid testified in court today.
Abdul Rashid said he and Shaheen subsequently met with Zahid several weeks later at the latter’s Country Heights residence in Kajang.
In that meeting, Abdul Rashid said he had laid out several conditions for the takeover of his 60 percent stake, including for Nurulhidayah to take over the company’s US$24 million loan and release him from being the guarantor, and to repay him the RM20 million advance that he had previously given the company.
Abdul Rashid said one of his conditions was also for Zahid to pay a deposit that was equivalent to an outstanding amount that Ri-Yaz had to pay for its loan instalment.
Abdul Rashid today said that law firm Lewis & Co had subsequently paid the “deposit” of RM8,602,920 (over RM8.6 million) via a Maybank cheque dated June 30, 2016 to Ri-Yaz, confirming that this was to pay Ri-Yaz’s outstanding loan instalment with Exim Bank and to fulfil Exim Bank’s requirement before the bank allowed the loan’s restructure and the sale of the 60 percent stake.
Due to the decline in the US currency’s value then which meant that the loan instalment was at a reduced amount of RM8,348,040.90, Abdul Rashid said that Ri-Yaz had then returned the excess sum of RM254,879.10 to Lewis & Co via a CIMB Bank cheque dated July 15, 2016.
“At the same time, Datuk Nurulhidayah told me that she should be able to make decisions in the company since the deposit payment has been made by her father,” Abdul Rashid said, adding that he had then proposed that she be appointed a director of Ri-Yaz while he stepped down as the company’s director.
“Ya, I was told after the RM8 million was given, Datuk Zahid felt it is not appropriate if his daughter did not become co-director, that’s why I agree to have her be director. I resigned,” he added today.
Nurulhidayah was appointed as a director of Ri-Yaz on January 27, 2017, but stepped down from the position on July 31, 2017 after the deal to buy over Abdul Rashid’s 60 percent stake fell through.
Abdul Rashid explained that Exim Bank had decided that the share sale could only proceed if he retains at least a 10 percent stake and if he remains the loan’s guarantor, adding that he had disagreed to such terms and that his share sale agreement to Nurulhidayah was cancelled.
“When the bank did not approve, the whole thing fell. They (the bank) rejected our application, they rejected the proposal because we asked for me to be released from being a guarantor. The bank said it didn’t want to release me as guarantor, I have to remain as the sole guarantor if the share purchase is to proceed, so I did not want, and the whole thing fell through,” Abdul Rashid told deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi.
After the deal fell through, Abdul Rashid said he was informed by Shaheen that Zahid had asked for Ri-Yaz to return the “deposit” of over RM8 million.
“Datuk Shaheen also told me that Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi did tell him that the “deposit” money is not his money, but the foundation’s money,” Abdul Rashid said, adding, however, that he did not remember the foundation’s name.
Abdul Rashid said he had then sourced for funds from friends and also used income generated from the hotel for Ri-Yaz’s return of the RM8,348,040.90 “deposit” via the company’s CIMB Bank cheque dated May 2, 2017 to Lewis & Co, which Abdul Rashid described as Zahid’s lawyers.
Abdul Rashid said he did not have any further contact with Nurulhidayah and Zahid after that and confirmed that he ultimately sold off his 60 percent stake to another buyer in 2017.
When asked by deputy public prosecutor Sazilee about the “deposit” of over RM8 million, Abdul Rashid confirmed that this amount was not a “loan” or an aid to or an investment in Ri-Yaz, asserting that this was stated in the share sale and purchase agreement as a “deposit” for the purchase of his 60 percent stake.
Asked by Zahid’s lawyer Mohd Haziq Dhiyauddin Razali if he knew that Lewis & Co was Yayasan Akalbudi’s trustee, Abdul Rashid said he did not know, but also went on to confirm all the cheque transactions for the matter linked to Zahid involved Lewis & Co’s bank account.
Among other things, Abdul Rashid told Haziq that he did not recall mentioning during share takeover discussions that Nurulhidayah would be appointed as Ri-Yaz’s director on behalf of Yayasan Akalbudi or that the share takeover was mentioned as an “investment”, also replying that he has no knowledge of Haziq’s suggestion that Nurulhidayah was to be a “nominee” to monitor Yayasan Akalbudi’s purported “investment”.
Later when reexamined by Sazilee, Abdul Rashid confirmed that the Ri-Yaz share purchase was never discussed as an investment by a foundation and that the sale and purchase agreement for the shares never mentioned the term “investment”, further confirming that the agreement had named Nurulhidayah as the share purchaser and had not mentioned that she is meant to be a “proxy”.
Zahid’s trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah will resume tomorrow.
Nov 21, Zahid’s Trial: Day Four
Nov 21, Zahid’s Trial: Day Three
Nov 19, Zahid’s Trial: Day Two